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Development Education

Volume 589: debated on Wednesday 6 May 1998

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2.53 p.m.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will promote greater awareness of world affairs through increased support for development education undertaken by Churches and non-governmental organisations.

My Lords, we are committed to increasing the awareness of development issues within the UK. To this end we have doubled our annual budget for development education. We have also established a working group to advise the Department for International Development, chaired by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, George Foulkes, and this group includes representatives of Churches, NGOs, business, trade unions and the media.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, which is encouraging. I congratulate the Government on renewing their efforts towards development education. Does the noble Lord agree that the Global March Against Child Labour, which this morning handed in a petition to Downing Street on behalf of 250 million children working in perilous conditions, and the Global Jubilee 2000 campaign on world debt relief in countries such as Mozambique, show that there is a great deal more awareness, in particular among young people who want the Government to meet their responsibilities in world fora? Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will do their utmost to maintain global standards in fora such as the World Trade Organisation?

My Lords, the noble Lord is correct in saying that there is an increasing awareness of these issues among sections of our society. However, it is also probably true that appreciation of the problems in world development education is not sufficiently widespread among the population as a whole. That is why we believe that we should increase the educational programme. I am aware of the petition on child labour to Downing Street today. My colleague, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, will meet that group later today. Child labour is of serious concern to Her Majesty's Government. Complex issues are involved, but I believe that in all fora we should pursue the standards which all Members of this House and British public opinion support.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister's constructive Answer. Will he reconsider the grant from the Government to the Council for Education in World Citizenship which for a number of years has done sterling work, particularly among sixth formers and other schoolchildren? It would repay its modest grant many times over.

My Lords, I shall certainly reconsider that. I am personally aware of the benefits of the Council for Education in World Citizenship. Within our education budget, we are looking at a number of grants for similar organisations. I shall take the noble Baroness's point on board.

My Lords, against the background of the Government's plan to promote the information highway in all schools in Britain, is this not a unique opportunity for them to offer development education through that medium?

My Lords, I understand that some development information will be available, although not in a separate compartmentalised area. It will relate to other subject areas covered by the information system.

My Lords, is not the regrettable high cost of education in the UK for foreign students, combined with the essential need for development education, making it necessary to consider a mechanism whereby foreign students can be matched to UK companies for practical training? That would provide excellent two-way benefits.

My Lords, there are a number of projects in that direction. The private sector has a role to play in particular in developing expertise in such countries. Trainees taken on board within Britain will be part of that.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House how much is the budget for development education?

My Lords, it was increased from £0.75 million to £1.5 million in this financial year.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the EU presidency project, which involves 200 NGOs and deals with a number of pressing development issues, has been a great success? Will he consider extending the life of some of the issues being considered under that project beyond the term of our presidency of the EU?

My Lords, part of this Government's approach to the EU presidency has been the involvement of NGOs and representatives of civic society generally in European issues, including in particular development and environmental issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and I made a press announcement today on a people's summit bringing together some of those NGOs immediately before the Cardiff summit. We hope that that initiative will in some form be carried forward into subsequent presidencies.

My Lords, apart from NGOs, can the Minister give encouragement to industries, particularly through the CBI, on such issues as the fair or ethical trading initiative?

My Lords, yes. In respect of most Questions which my noble friend and I have answered on development issues, we have always stressed the important role of the private sector and private investment in the development strategy. Part of the financial flow of that is being covered by some of the ethical investment institutions.